During the 1850s the Buffum Pear became the focus of much discussion among American pomologists. Its erect almost geometrically pyramidal tree, its enormous productivity, and its richly flavored flesh were accounted distinct virtues. But it was a modest sized pear—about two & ½ to three inches long, and two & ¼ in diameter. It did not graft well on quince stocks—a surefire way to improve health and production in most other pears. And it was slow to bear. It was ripe in August in the South, September in the North, and had two to three weeks before the flesh began to brown. So the variety was not met with universal.
The fruit were ovate, wrapped in a pale yellow skin, except for the sunny side which bore a blaze of red. The flesh was yellowish white, juicy and fragrant when ripe. The friut were usually picked a week before ripening and left to mellow in a fruit room. The taste quality was sufficient to win the recommendation of the U. S. Pomological Congree that it be a part of every orchard of any scale (Charles Mason Hovey, The Fruits of America (1853), 2: 19-20.
A seedling (perhaps of the White Doyenne Pear) found by David Buffum of Warren, Rhode Island in the first decade of the nineteenth century, cuttings were distributed throughout New England in the early 1830s by Manning’s Pomological Garden in Salem, Massachusetts. The first account of the pear was published in the Magazine of Horiticulture III (1837), 16. In the South several important nurseries carried the variety: W. D. Beattie’s Atlanta Nursery, N. W. Craft’s Cedar Grover Nursery in Yadkin, North Carolina, J. S. Downer & Son’s Forest Nursery in Fairview, Kentucky, P. J. Berckmans’s Fruitlands Nursery in Augusta, Georgia, the Kentucky Nursery in Louisville, Kentucky, W. T. Hood’s Old Dominion Nursery in Richmond, Virginia, and W. Summers’s Pomaria Nursery in Pomaria, South Carolina.
Because of its susceptability to Pear Blight, the Buffum passed out of favor in the twentieth century. The variety is retained in the National Clonal Germ Plasm Repository “World Pear Collection” in Corvalis, Oregon.
Image: "U.S. Department of Agriculture Pomological Watercolor Collection. Rare and Special Collections, National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, MD 20705" Royal Charles Steadman, 1921.
David S. Shields